Saturday, September 22, 2012

Oiling Your Featherweight



From: (Carrie Bryan)
Subject: oil; lint; which machine is the sub?

I got my FW (1934) a few months ago and have been loving it.  I had been wor-
ried about knowing when to oil it, but it turns out the machine tells me.
When it started getting dry, the foot pedal started getting "sticky".  It
would refuse to be pushed down, then would drop suddenly and the machine
would just take off.  So I got out the oil (another story) and started put-
ting drops in where the manual said to.  When I got to the bottom (where you
can actually see whether there's oil), I found that the needle end was dry
and the motor end was still quite oily.  So I started to worry (gotta worry
about *something*) that maybe the foot pedal was having a problem all its
own.  But when I put the machine back together and ran it, the foot pedal's
"stickiness" was all gone!

From: SadieRose
Subject: FW Birthdates

      I can tell when my machines need oiling as they sound different when
they run- kind of a 'clackety' sound.  When they are freshly oiled, they
'hum'.  The SInger instruction booklet that came with the machines says they
should be oiled everyday if used frequently!   I mail ordered a pinpoint
sewing machine oil tube (from Clothilde's catalog, I think).  This is much
easier to control than a large bottle.
From: (Carrie Bryan)
Subject: oiling; shipping; attachments box

WRT original oil:  My 1934 FW came to me with a tube of 1934 lubricant; the
seller warned me not to use it.  She said she had kept it for authenticity.
If the person/people who don't know where to oil their machine(s) send me a
business-size sase and 50c, I'll xerox the appropriate pages in my copy of
the manual and send them to you.  Snail mail address:  Carrie Bryan, 112 Far-
go Way, Folsom, CA  95630.  Remember to put your name, address, and stamp on
your envelope!
From: Shelley440
Subject: From a true FW Fanatic

In regard to oiling, I oil my machine according to the xerox copy of the
manual I received when I bought the machine.  It is also in the "Perfect
Portable" book which I don't remember who wrote, but hopefully you know what
I am talking about.  I purchased a small tube of singer machine oil for about
$2 which has a little red nozzle type tip which I find is perfect for getting
in those little holes.
From: LyndaQults
Subject: Re: FW "grease"

Yes I did type grease, what I actually meant was the singer lubricant, and a
really small dab of it goes on large gears when you open up the bottom of the
machine.  You may notice black or dark brown thick "grease" build-up,  That
stuff gets gently scraped off (its usually migrated from the gears onto the
shafts and you will even find it on the bottom cover) and about 3/4 inch long
dab of lubricant gets worked into each gear mechanism.  Its easy but just
sounds somewhat complicated.  You squeeze it out on top of the gear wheel
mechaniism on one side and just work the fly wheel back and forth to lube the
gears.  When I say that they had not cleaned it, the build up was encrusted
and incredible.  The machine I took in to be serviced was a 1954 and it had
been hardly used by my non handy mother-in -law.  Compared to the 1941
machine I took to class, that I knew had not been serviced, the difference
was incredible.  The serviced for $ 70 machine was filthy when I opened it up
to check it out.
From: LyndaQults
Subject: dating your machine

Mimi also suggests using Turtle Wax or Goddard Metal polish for cleaning
surface of machine.  (be gentle)
From: cc and David Weisbrod 
Subject: Old Singers & Lubing

The thread spool is on a flap.  Loosen the screw to release it.  When you
move that aside, you see that little black hole sticking up?  Give it a
drop of SINGER LUBRICANT.  For most of these old black Singers, look for
these little black holes or wells.  Singer made it very easy for us to
lube our machines.  It's very important to get N. Johnson-Srebro's FW
handbook.  A copy of the 221 documentation is included towards the end of
the book.  Heed her advice on using only SINGER LUBRICANT.  ;-) Ladies,
Over-kill is not good.  SMALL drop is sufficient.
From: Silkeee
Subject: Re:  FW motor grease

In the manual, it talks about refilling the motor lubricant holes.  I do not
have any motor lubricant.  Does Singer still make it?  What is everyone
doing instead?

I too as baffled by the reference to greasing the FW motor in the reprinted
manual in N J-S's book so I did a little checking on the matter.  The grease
is no longer manufactured by Singer.  My local sewing man told me the Singer
Motor Grease was Lithium Grease, (that stiff black grease they smear on your
axles) which is no longer available except from you local auto parts store,
and is sold in big containers.  I then paid a visit to my local Singer man
who told me that regardless of what the manual said you NEVER EVER EVER lube
the motor.  He said that Singer found that lubing the motor eventually caused
seizure of the motor so they stopped that practice.  "But, but but" sez I.
 "OK, go ruin your expensive featherweight," sez he.  Never being satisfied,
I checked out a different Singer man who told me the exact same thing.  I was
told that Singer training school now teaches that it must never be used on
the motor ducts.  After getting 2 similar opinions from 2 different guys I
was satisfied.  I asked the second guy what do they do with the motors, and
he told me that if the customer complains the motor is running slow or
something,  they will disassemble the motor and  clean the brushes, add
carbon to the brushes,  or do whatever needs to be done to get it working
well again.  But here's a tip I learned from my Sewing Machine Repair book:
 If your motor is running slow and just doesn't have any zip anymore, loosen
the clutch to disengage the needle and step on the gas.  Run it at top speed
for a long time until you hear the motor change its sound.  Then its run
itself clean.  It might take 10 mins, but you will hear the change in the
motor's sound when it's finally cleaned.  I have never done this on my FW
(didn't have to), but I have done it on other old machines I've bought and it
does work.

From:  (Gordon D. Jones)
Subject: Singer sewing machines

A few comments on care and lubrication:  Featherweights should be cleaned
and oiled on a regular basis, especially if used frequently.  The bobbin
race should be oiled daily, ONE DROP is sufficient.  Singer says oil the
machine daily if used continuously.  I don't imagine that many of us use
the machine continuously, but there are a lot of quilter's that piece 8 or
more hours a day.  If you use the machine that much, oil it a least once a
week, otherwise, once a month or when you hear more noise than normal.  You can tell a dry machine (needs oiling)by its clatter.  Just use a drop or two in each oil hole, more just collects dust and makes a mess.  Use the Singer book on the Model 221 as a quide on where to oil. 

If you don't have a book, buy the book "FEATHERWEIGHT 221 The
Perfect Portable" by Nancy Johnson-Srebro.  It has a reprint of the singer
info in the back.  Use Singer machine oil or a good quality sewing machine
oil.  Do not use 3-in-one oil or WD-40 as a lubricant. These products can
be used to clean a dirty machine initially, remove gum or rust, but must
followed with a good quality oil for lubrication.  Purchase an oiler, if
you can find one.  Using the container the oil comes in is difficult since
the spout is usually only about an inch long.  I found and excellent oiler
at the White sewing machine dealer.  It is a plastic bottle with a 3" brass
tube for a spout.  The spout  retracts into the bottle when not in use.
You can get the oil where it belongs with this oiler.

 Use only SINGER LUBRICANT to lubricate the bevel gears and the motor.
SINGER lubricant is a non-flowing lubricant that will stay on the gears and
it will not dry out. I have cleaned old machines where someone has used
white grease or some other grease that has dried and caked so badly it had
to scraped off.  You can image how long this can take.  SINGER lubricant
can be purchased at most fabric stores, it comes in a 1/2 oz tube and is
called just SINGER LUBRICANT, Singer item #2129.  The reason one should use
Singer lubricant on the motor and not oil, oil can run onto the commutator
and cause sparking of the brushes and will shorten the life of the motor.
The lubricant, being non-flowing will stay on the bearings where it
belongs.  The motor and the bevel gears should be lubed at least once a
year and more often if the machine is used daily.  For those of you that
have a 221K made in Scotland, you won't find any bevel gears to lub.  It
has a toothed belt between the upper and lower shaft.  Belts run dry, do
not lub or oil the belt.
From: cc and David Weisbrod 
Subject: Singer Lubricant

In the manual, it talks about refilling the motor lubricant holes.  I do
not have any motor lubricant.  Does Singer still make it?  What is
everyone doing instead?

I too was baffled by the reference to greasing the FW motor in the reprinted
manual in N J-S's book so I did a little checking on the matter.  The grease
is no longer manufactured by Singer.  My local sewing man told me the Singer
Motor Grease was Lithium Grease, (that stiff black grease they smear on your

= = = = = = = = snip = = = = =

Margaret, thanks for sharing your research with us.  A tube of Singer
Lubricant costs about $2.25.  It is in a red and white 1/2 oz. tube with
the words "SINGER Lubricant".  I bought mine at Woolworth's.  This is a
fairly common item wherever Singer products are displayed.

To be fair to N. J-S, she was addressing the 2 grease tubes and not the
motor itself.  The location of the grease tubes are illustrated on page 70
of her book.  On page 34, she states that the motor brushes must be kept
bone dry for proper operation and, like the original handbook, recommends
only SINGER motor lubricant be used in the tubes.  Boy, as much as I would
like to see the innards of the motor housing, I would not dare break the

I have one of the original green tubes of motor lubricant.  Squeezed some
of it out, and the lubricant isn't stiff black grease.  It's clear.  My
Singer man told me that if I sew a lot, fill the 2 tubes once a year.  He
also recommended using the Singer Lubricant and showed me the same red &
white tube.  He also recommended that I should run my machines at least
once a month for about 15 minutes.

All these sewing machine techs give us varying information...some very
contrary to what we read or hear, resulting in added confusion to our
already confused minds re: the mechanics of our babies and, especially so,
when we are not mechanically inclined.

This is the reason why I find FWFanatics a valuable source of information.
It is convenient to use each other as sounding boards.  It is the only way
we ladies can filter the information process.  Our goal is to know what
makes our machines sing instead of chug-a-lug.

My Singer source of information, Larry, is 80 years old, still makes house
calls on old Singers, and for the most part, old black Singers have
supported him and his family ever since he returned from WWII.

Margaret's findings are right on the money re: NEVER EVER EVER lube the
motor.  These men were referring to INSIDE the motor where the brushes
are.  The oiling points are areas where moving parts articulate.  If you
track the wells or oiling points, you'll find that each one is directly
above a moving part.

In the motor housing, to remain dry and free from contaminants, the
brushes are designed to be as far away as possible from the bearings.  The
bearings are housed in such a way to prevent lubricant from leaking into
the brush area.  These bearings are moving parts and therefore must remain
lubricated.  We do this via the motor grease tubes.

N. J-S warns not to squirt WD-40 through these tubes.  The pressure from
the squirt may cause the WD-40 spray to reach inside the brush area.
Ladies, we don't want that to happen.  So, do not use WD-40 in the motor
lubricant tubes.  BTW, WD-40 is a solvent, not a lubricant.

The gears of our FWs or any of the old sewing machines are lathe-machined
to precision fit.  If they are not lubricated and allowed to run dry, the
gears create filings and residue which will eventually grind down and lose
their precision fit.  That's the beauty of our machines--precision fit.

Our new top of the line machines may do lots and lots more than our FWs,
but they have plastic gears.  If we keep our FWs well oiled and well used,
they'll last longer than our lifetime and your kid's lifetime and who
knows...maybe your great grandkids.
From: Silkeee
Subject: Re: Correction on Motor Grease

DH says Lithium Grease is not the black grease, but rather a white grease.
 He says it is disfavored as it collects dirt.  Just want to correct this
error I made before someone else catches it, and again note NOT to grease
your FW motor.

From: (Carrie Bryan)
Subject: rough riders

Someone said she's gotten all kinds of advice on when to oil; I'll give still
another piece.  I oil when my princess gets loud (hence my need for tips like
the thread one above) or if it's been a while, I'll look at the oiling points
in the bottom and oil if they look dry.
From: Terry 

        GAIL: The 1950 book MACHINE SEWING by Singer says about oiling (quote):
Sewing machines require daily oiling and cleaning if they are used
continuously all day.  If used moderately, a few hours a day, oiling and
cleaning once or twice a week is sufficient.  A sewing machine, like all
other machinery, will not give proper satisfaction if the working parts are
allowed to become dry or gummed with a poor grade of oil.  A sewing machine
that has not received the proper care will run hard and considerable energy
is wasted by using a machine in this condition.  Always remove dust, lint,
threads, etc., before oiling any part of the machine or stand, especially in
and around the shuttle race.
Date: Thu, 7 Mar 1996 07:11:30 -0800
From: Lynda Carswell 
Subject: HOLD THAT OIL!!!!!
I was just reading this mornings FWF, when I came upon your letter re Singer
DO NOT USE OIL IN THE LUBRICANT HOLES,  sorry for the shouting,  but this
would be disaster both for the machine, and for your pocket book.  Singer
still makes lubricant,  it is readily available in most fabric stores right
next to the bobbins.  costs about 2 dollars.
I hope you will never be tempted to take any of your machines to this
repairman,  He does not know what he is talking about.
To use oil in a LUBE hole, would really mess up your motor, and if you used
it in any of the gears that require lube,  it would eventually allow your
gears to be damaged.
Lube goes in/on lube places,  oil goes in/on oil places,  Never the twain
shall meet.
 From: "Jeffrey E. Froyd" (
Subject: Singer oil and lubricant
I just went looking for Singer oil and lubricant myself.  JoAnn Fabrics had both-the oil in a plastic bottle and the lubricant in a plastic tube, on the notions wall.  WalMart had the oil for $1 less, but did not carry the lubricant (here, anyway).  The Singer manual shows oiling points on the mechanical parts of the fw, as well as 
two places to use the lubricant (D in fig. 26 and A in fig. 27).  Nancy Johnson-Srebro says in her FW 221 book, p. 34: 
"This (fw) motor has two grease tubes that must be filled periodically, and Singer motor lubricant is the only recommended grease.  Do not under any circumstances try to inject  WD-40 or any other oil into the motor's grease tubes.  If  you  do, the oil will find its way onto the motor brushes and saturate them; they are made of carbon and must be kept bone 
dry for proper operation."  

The lubricant, by the way, is non-flowing, so when used as directed in the motor grease tubes stays on the bearings and doesn't touch the brushes.  Others have also reported being told that Singer doesn't make the motor lubricant any more; lots of us find it easily in the white and red plastic tube.  I don't know why the contradictions, but I would definitely find the tube of lubricant to use on the two points mentioned above, but use your oil on the other oiling 
points.  Good luck-hope this helps!  Joy, a fellow Minnesotan living in IN
Subject: New Baby Nightmare and Other Stuff

   The fiber stuff you were digging out of your lube tubes were the felt
lubrication wicks for the armature shaft.  The tubes contain a spring at
the top which pushes the wick down against the armature shaft to keep it
lubricated.  Since the motor requires very little lubrication, the slow
process of the lube filtering through the felt is sufficient.  Since the
felt is now gone, you should be careful to put very little lube in those
tubes or it will end up on the motor brushes which will cause smoking and
an odor.  All Singer motors which have lube tubes (including the
Featherweight) are constructed this way so hopefully no one else will
decide to clean out the tubes.
   The little spring you found behind the face plate was probably the one
on the tension release lever.  It should cause no problem as long as the
lever is completely free moving.  If it sticks, you might have tension
problems sometimes.

1 comment:

Praveen G said...

Automatic lubricators
Thanks for sharing informative blog.